Nightshade Page 89

“Are you insane?” he snarled. “He’s one of them, Calla.”

“No. He’s not,” I said. “He won’t hurt me.”

And I knew it was true.

“Run. I’ll catch you.” He started to protest, but I cut him off. “Now, Shay. The others can’t be far behind him.”

He hesitated before slinking into the thick woods.

I stumbled through the deep snow toward Ren. His eyes were closed; his hands bled where the sharp bark of the tree had ripped away the skin of his fingers.

“Ren, look at me, please.” But his eyes remained shut.

“I knew it. This is what you want. You want him.” His eyes slowly opened; the pain reflected in his dark irises made my heart falter. “That scent—he was with you in the cave. He’s the lone wolf.”

“Ren, they’re going to make us kill him!” I blurted. “The Keepers were going to sacrifice Shay tonight. He’s our kill.”

He was silent for a moment, and I knew at least a part of Ren wanted to kill Shay. All his instincts as an alpha would push him toward that conclusion, to possess me and destroy the usurper, especially now that Shay was one of us. But another part of him, and I hoped it was the stronger part, had to know that killing Shay was wrong.

“That’s impossible,” Ren said at last, shaking his head. “There’s no way, after all they’ve asked of us. We’ve taken care of him; it’s sick.”

“It’s true,” I said, waves of relief coursing through me. “Shay went with me to the cave and he did kill the spider. But it bit me and I had to turn him. I would have died without pack blood. We had no choice.”

I didn’t want to think about how much it would hurt Ren now that he knew how long I’d kept secrets from him. How much I loved having Shay in his wolf form, running at my side. All these secrets and lies, rising from the dark unknown, circling like vultures.

“Calla, what the hell are you talking about? Why did you go to the cave with him in the first place?” Ren snapped. “None of this makes sense. Why would the Keepers ask us to kill him?”

“Shay isn’t just a human boy. He’s special.” Ren winced at the word, but I pressed on. “He’s the Scion, someone the Keepers see as a threat. He fulfills a prophecy they’re afraid of.”

“What prophecy? Calla, if our masters say he’s a threat, then why are you helping him?” he roared. “We follow the Keepers’ orders. We protect the sites.”

“No, we don’t. At least we shouldn’t. We’ve been lied to.” I tightened my hold on his arms. “I’ve read the War of All Against All, Ren. Shay found it in his uncle’s library and I read it.”

Ren’s eyes went wide with fear and fascination. “You read the Keeper’s text?”

“They lied to us, to all of us,” I said. “They’re not who they claim to be, and we’re not their loyal soldiers. We’re their slaves. Guardians have fought back in the past, resisted. Our ancestors tried to take another path, and the Keepers killed them for revolting. It’s all there, all in the history we’ve been forbidden to learn.

“I can’t live like this anymore.” My angry tears came faster. “I hate what they can do to us. What Efron does to Sabine. What could happen to Mason, to Ansel, to Bryn . . . to any of us or all of us. I don’t want to submit, Ren. I’m an alpha.”

And then I was clinging to Ren, sobbing, even as I drove my fists into his chest.

“Calla,” Ren whispered hoarsely. “If this is about what happened on the mountain, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I don’t want to rule you. You’re my mate and I respect your strength. I always have.”

He paused, taking a deep breath. “I’m not my father.”

Not yet. I couldn’t hide from my own fears about Emile and my mother’s words about the Bane alpha. Could Ren be so different?

“That doesn’t matter now,” I said. “None of it does. I’m leaving. I have to help Shay get out of here. I won’t let him die.”

“Why?” Ren hissed. “What about him is worth risking your own life?”

“He’s the Scion,” I whispered. “He might be the only one who can save us. All of us. What if our lives only belonged to us? What if we didn’t serve the Keepers?”

Ren’s arms wrapped around me, pulling my body tight against him. “I don’t know how to believe you. Any of this. What else is there? This is who we are.”

“That doesn’t make it right. You know I wouldn’t abandon my pack unless I had to,” I said quietly. “Unless it was the only way to help them.”

His eyes met mine, strained and uncertain.

“We don’t have much time,” I said. “How did you get ahead of the others?”

He glanced in the direction from which we’d come. “There was an uproar when they found Flynn’s body, but I caught your scent and took off. The rest of them were still regrouping. My father’s pack. The elder Banes.”

He tensed and cold flooded my limbs.

“What about the Nightshades?” I asked.

“They’re being held for questioning.”

He caught me just as my muscles went limp and I collapsed. Images too hideous to face began to flash through my mind. My pack. My brother. Wraiths. My stomach turned over and I thought I would vomit.

Ren’s strong arms supported me while I sought the strength that had fled my body.

“What do they know, Calla?” he whispered.

“Nothing,” I said. “None of them know who Shay is or what I’ve learned. I didn’t want to endanger them . . .”

I shook away the horrible thoughts. “If anything happens to them now, it’s my fault. You have to help them. You’re the only one who can.”

“No. If you’re in trouble, I’ll help. I’ll go with you.” He gritted his teeth. “Even if that means protecting Shay.”

“You can’t go with me,” I argued. “I need you to go back. Create a diversion to buy us some time. Please, Ren.”

He sucked in a sharp breath and stared at me. I held his gaze, forcing strength into my voice.

“I need you to do this. Tell them we fought and you injured me badly enough that I ran, but Shay wasn’t with me, that I was leading you on a false trail. He’s who they want; they’ll follow you if you take them in another direction.”

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